Sharks

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in wild 5-4 win over Predators

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USATSI

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in wild 5-4 win over Predators

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SAN JOSE -– There was no denying that Tuesday night’s rematch between the Sharks and the Nashville Predators would be a good game. But it’s likely that nobody expected just how lopsided this eventual nail-biter could get.

The Sharks jumped out to a convincing three-goal lead in the first period while the Predators looked tired and unable to create any offense. Then, the visitors rallied in the second stanza to notch three unanswered goals of their own, tying the score heading into the second intermission.

It looked as though Nashville would skate away to a one-goal victory halfway through the third, but Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton put two big goals on the board to give the home team the 5-4 victory.

To top everything off, the game-winner was Thornton’s 400th career goal.

Here are three takeaways from Tuesday’s topsy-turvy game.

The Sharks' first period was amazing

The Sharks opened the game with the most dominant period of hockey they’ve played all season. It embodied everything the team has been saying it wants: Great puck possession, a strong defensive presence and contributions from all four lines.

The strong start was important, given the Predators were playing on the tail end of a back-to-back on the road and had just lost to the Anaheim Ducks in a shootout the previous night. Nashville was visibly tired in the first frame, and San Jose took advantage.

That being said …

The second period was the opposite of amazing

It was like a completely different Sharks team took the ice in the second period. They played a looser game and gave the Predators an opportunity to get back into the contest – not something a team wants to do against a squad with an 8-0-1 road record.

San Jose’s biggest problem in those 20 minutes was not being able to capitalize on any power-play opportunities. The Sharks even had a five-on-three opportunity after the Predators were called for having too many men on the ice. But through 3:40 on the man advantage, San Jose didn’t register a single shot on goal.

The third-period push is alive and well

If there’s one thing the Sharks are good at, it’s making that big third-period push when they’re on their heels. Sometimes it’s too little too late. It came at just the right time Tuesday. 

Goaltender Martin Jones made his best saves at the end of the game. He was particularly impressive when Nashville pulled its goalie with less than two minutes left in the game, and the Predators' forwards swarmed into San Jose’s zone.

Of course, the highlight of the game came on the final goal, when Thornton seemed to skate up to Nashville’s net in slow motion after getting a spectacular feed from Marcus Sorensen. Predators netminder Juuse Saros appeared to not even see Thornton’s milestone marker float past him stick side.

Sharks' crazy comeback over Capitals is a testament to their character

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USATSI

Sharks' crazy comeback over Capitals is a testament to their character

Suffice to say, just about anyone watching the end of the Sharks-Capitals contest Tuesday night probably assumed the game was over in the last few seconds. Heck, even members of the Sharks thought they were about to lose to the defending Stanley Cup champs before Evander Kane scored the tying goal with one second left in regulation.

“I thought the game was over,” Logan Couture admitted. “I came to the bench and I changed, and I was frustrated. Broke my stick over the bench. And then I look up and Kane’s putting the puck in the net.”

You really do have to hand it to the Sharks. They went into Tuesday’s game on the back end of yet another back-to-back with travel involved. They were coming off their third straight loss --- not to mention their third consecutive game where they’d given up six goals. Plus, they have a banged up starting lineup going up against a desperate Capitals team looking to snap a five-game losing streak of their own. 

Oh, and Alex Ovechkin registered a hat trick. Don’t forget about that part.

But the Sharks hung around. Although San Jose was down two goals partway through the third frame, they kept pushing so Kane could find the back of the net at 19:59 to send it to overtime -- where the Sharks would eventually seal the win.

“The guys knew we were in a tough one tonight,” Sharks’ coach Peter DeBoer told the media after the 7-6 overtime victory. “With the scheduling of it and the way the road trip has gone and some of the injuries we’ve got. We could’ve used it as an excuse and mailed it in at a bunch of different points tonight and we didn’t.

“I think that’s a testament to our character.”

That character helped to catapult the Sharks offense in the third frame after Ovechkin tallied his third goal to give Washington a 6-4 advantage at 5:52 in the period. San Jose kept grinding, with Tomas Hertl capitalizing on the power play halfway through frame and Kane beating Braden Holtby at the final buzzer. The push culminated in overtime when Martin Jones stood his ground in three-on-three play so Couture, Hertl, and Timo Meier could carry the puck the other way. Hertl scored the game-winner, notching his third career hat trick -- which also made him the first player in team history to register a hat trick that included a game-winning goal in overtime.

To top it off, the Sharks didn’t just hand the Capitals their sixth straight loss. It was also the first time Washington lost a game in which Ovechkin scored a hat trick

Kane gave a nod to the team’s resilience while being down. “We never stopped thinking we could get back,” he said. “As long as we kept getting that next goal and [Washington] didn’t make it a three-goal lead. Big win going into the break.”

Speaking of that break, the majority of the Sharks get a 10-day breather with their bye week occurring immediately after All-Star weekend. This team has had a crazy schedule and is facing adversity with the injuries. Getting that win over Washington no doubt allows the team to start that break in a positive frame of mind.

“It’s been a grind,” DeBoer acknowledged. “It’s nice to go into the break with a big emotional win like that. Makes the time a little more enjoyable.”

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in wild 7-6 overtime win over Capitals

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Sharks takeaways: What we learned in wild 7-6 overtime win over Capitals

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Fans probably weren’t expecting a goal-scoring clinic when the Sharks and Capitals met up for the first time this season Tuesday night, but it turned into a goal-scoring frenzy, as the teams went back and forth for the good part of 60 minutes. 

It was an absolutely insane sequence of events between San Jose and the defending Stanley Cup champs -- especially when Evander Kane tied the game up at 19:59 in the third frame to send the contest into overtime. In the end, Tomas Hertl played the role of the hero, securing a hat trick in overtime to give the Sharks the 7-6 victory.

Here are three takeaways from the Sharks' last game before the break:

The defense struggled again

Neither the Sharks nor the Capitals were particularly successful at breaking up plays in their own end, which didn’t give either starting netminder much help. Braden Holtby and Martin Jones didn't exactly do themselves a lot of favors, though, as they weren’t particularly good at preventing rebounds.

Nevertheless, this is an aspect of San Jose’s game that has suffered as of late, and can't be entirely attributed to top members of their blue line being sidelined with injury. The Sharks’ overall defense was stellar before they went on this road trip. They have to get back to that way of playing heading down the stretch toward the playoffs.

Special teams produce, but still room for improvement

Neither team’s special teams were particularly consistent -- Washington gave up a 3-on-0 for crying out loud. San Jose’s improved as the game went on, as Logan Couture scored a short-handed goal in the second stanza, and Tomas Hertl found the back of the net on the man advantage in the third. 

While the short-handed goal proved to be crucial, the Sharks' penalty kill still has to be better when play resumes out of the All-Star break. San Jose had the second-best kill in the league earlier in the season. That’s a level they need to return to if they’re going to get back in the win column on a regular basis.

Defensive identity

Even though the Sharks won Tuesday’s game, they can't be happy with how many goals they gave up. Six goals in four straight games? The Sharks haven't done that since 1995, and it’s not the mark of a sound defensive club. This team has to play a tighter game, and getting a little time off could help them reset and do just that.

After the All-Star break, the Sharks' travel schedule is more forgiving than it has been up to this point in the season. Plus, San Jose should get a couple injured players back and healthy. They've stumbled a bit going into the long break, but all they can do at this point is look ahead to how they can be better after the 10-day bye.